This may strike you as rich coming from the guy who just last week had the nerve to insist Saul “Canelo” Alvarezowes us nothing,” but if Alvarez announces in the coming days that he’s fighting Edgar Berlanga on May 4, Canelo deserves every ounce of venom that comes his way.

Arguments can get complicated when you have five options on the table. If you’re choosing between a Lexus, a BMW, a Tesla, a Mercedes, and a Jaguar, there isn’t going to be one clear, correct choice.

But once you’ve whittled it down to two options, often there is a “right” and a “wrong.” Especially if you’re down to two cars that look essentially the same but one is from a proven, reliable manufacturer, and the other is from an upstart company that spent the last couple of years issuing a series of recalls.

Canelo had five theoretical opponent options a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s being reported that he’s down to two. Nothing is official until it’s official, but with Alvarez’s departure from PBC, it sure seems David Benavidez, Terence Crawford, and Jermall Charlo are off the table, and on Cinco de Mayo weekend, the super middleweight champ will defend against either Berlanga or Jaime Munguia.

And under those circumstances, there’s nothing to debate.

We’re talking about two options that came out of the same Canelo opponent Jell-o mold. Comparing, say, Benavidez to Crawford, is tricky; they have almost nothing in common other than being two damned good professional fighters. But Munguia and Berlanga share an archetype.

With either man, it’s Alvarez versus the younger, undefeated, offensive-minded challenger who will be in over his head unless Canelo suddenly falls off a cliff physically.

It’s truly apples to apples. And only one of the two apples is crisp and juicy.

A few days ago, Benavidez spoke the words: “Berlanga sucks and I would destroy him.” I respect anyone who boxes for a living too much to make my own declaration that one “sucks.” Berlanga is a fine fighter. But in the context of championship-level super middleweights, I understand where Benavidez was coming from.

Every hardcore fight fan knows Berlanga’s background: he started his career with 16 consecutive first-round knockout wins, and that remarkable streak gradually elevated him from just another intriguing prospect to a sensation whose ESPN-broadcast opening bouts were more hotly anticipated than the main events.

Then Berlanga was taken into the second round by Demond Nicholson — and into the third round and the fourth and the fifth, and before we knew it, a ring announcer was reading scorecards. The “KO 1” streak was over, and so was the “KO anytime” streak.

And a new streak began. Berlanga was taken the distance five times in a row. He suffered a knockdown and struggled mightily while dealing with a torn left biceps against Marcelo Coceres. He pulled out a narrow, and in some quarters mildly disputed, decision over Steve Rolls. He lost control and tried to bite Roamer Angulo en route to a decision win. And he convincingly outpointed Jason Quigley — although he notably failed to stop a fighter who’d been stopped in each of his previous two defeats.

Last weekend, Berlanga got back on track. He scored his first knockout in more than three years, finishing Padraig McCrory in the sixth round.

And just like that, a fighter who did what he was supposed to do against one non-contender after struggling to varying degrees in five consecutive previous fights against other non-contenders was elevated to consideration for a Canelo fight. Really?

It’s clear what the Alvarez camp is thinking. Berlanga has a zero at the end of his record, has built a bit of a fan base in New York and among Puerto Rican fans, is capable of making fun action fights, and is not a serious threat to upset Canelo. It’s low risk and maybe they believe they can find a way to sell it.

But Munguia can one-up Berlanga in every regard. 

Munguia also has a zero at the end of his record, and has almost twice as many wins (43 to 22) against a much higher level of opposition. He even has a slightly higher KO percentage than Berlanga, despite that much tougher grade of opposition, which is noteworthy because KOs are the primary basis for Berlanga’s marketability.

Munguia, with more years in the spotlight to work with, has established at least as big a fan base as Berlanga, and what could make more sense than a superstar Mexican champion against a popular Mexican challenger on the night before Cinco de Mayo?

Munguia is a far more proven action fighter than Berlanga and won what some considered the 2023 Fight of the Year when he scored a dramatic 12th-round knockdown to lock up a win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko.

He’s just a far more proven fighter, period. In his last fight, he KO’d John Ryder, who had gone the distance with Canelo just eight months earlier. Berlanga, on the other hand, went the distance last year with a fighter Demetrius Andrade flattened in two rounds.

Ryder and Derevyanchenko are but two of about a dozen fighters Munguia has beaten who would be favored over the best opponent on Berlanga’s ledger.

And the beautiful part for Canelo about a Munguia fight is that, while he figures not to have as easy an evening as he would with Berlanga, victory is still damned close to a sure thing.

Take a look at the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (TBRB) rankings. Unlike alphabet group rankings, where fighters move in/out/up/down on a whim (or on a need to justify a title fight or eliminator that a promoter wishes to make), these ratings are based on in-ring results and are discussed and debated by a large group of boxing journalists. They’re not flawless, but they generally reflect reality and provide a picture of how the top 10 fighters in each division stack up in a way that the sanctioning groups do not.

In the TBRB rankings, Alvarez is the super middleweight champ (fact), Benavidez is his top contender (fact), Munguia is ranked No. 5 (makes perfect sense), and Berlanga is No. 10. That’s progress. It’s a reasonable ranking. He has cracked a legit top 10 since stopping McCrory. He’s on the right track.

He remains ranked below Carlos Gongora, Pavel Silyagin, Evgeny Shvedenko, and Vladimir Shishkin.

Granted, in boxing, the opportunities — for titles, for massive purses, for both — don’t always go to the most deserving contender. But there’s usually some sort of rationale. There’s usually some way to talk yourself into the not-so-deserving guy making sense.

There is no possibility of talking yourself into Berlanga. Not when Munguia, the rich man’s Berlanga, is sitting right there.

According to rumors and reports, the executives at DAZN see it the same way. Allegedly, Canelo wants Berlanga in May, Munguia in September. DAZN supposedly wants Munguia in May, then reassess.

Of course, DAZN is only in the conversation because of the Canelo-PBC fracture, which is its own fascinating subplot. Multiple reports from well-sourced boxing journalists say Alvarez wanted at least a $35 million guarantee to fight Charlo on May 4, and that PBC was willing to take a probable financial hit on that fight if Canelo agreed to face Benavidez in September. Neither side conceded, and Canelo became a free agent again.

While certain Twitter users who like to troll PBC insisted Alvarez bolted because the promotional company couldn’t come up with the $35 million guarantee to put in escrow, former Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza, now working with PBC in some undisclosed capacity, responded directly by writing, “Absolutely nothing to do with escrow. Literally zero. That narrative is still completely inaccurate and clueless.”

There are still reports, as recent as today, however, that a proposed Canelo-Munguia fight could take place with the involvement of Al Haymon and PBC, and Canelo has yet to make any significant announcements about his next move. 

Whatever the minutia of the business-side splintering, in the short-term, paying Canelo what he wanted to be paid to face the opponents he wanted to face did not make financial sense for PBC. In the longer term and the bigger picture, the fallout for PBC and Amazon Prime from losing Canelo may prove substantial. But that’s a topic for another column.

Canelo has moved on from PBC, and has been in discussions with DAZN and Matchroom, and is reportedly not seeing eye to eye with them just yet. According to veteran boxing writer Dan Rafael on his Big Fight Weekend podcast recorded Thursday, there is now another outlet in the mix. So it’s not necessarily DAZN or bust for Alvarez. 

And you can’t begrudge Canelo doing whatever makes the most business sense at this stage of his lengthy career.

You can, however, begrudge him not understanding that a waste of time against Berlanga makes no sense, business or otherwise, in a world in which Munguia exists.

There is a right choice and a wrong choice here, Canelo.

You’ve succeeded in lowering the bar by teasing the Berlanga option. Now run up and clear that bar instead of running headlong into it.